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Mini Language Classes a Highlight of Alumni Reunion Weekend

Bon vivant, ¿Qué haces?, Wie geht’s?, domo arigato – terms like these may jog our memory, but how much do we really remember from our foreign language classes? After all, for some of us it has been quite a while…

With that in mind, alumni returning to Washington and Lee for Alumni Reunion Weekend 2009 will, for the fourth year in a row, have the chance to brush up on critical foreign language skills. The Tucker Multimedia Center and foreign language departments will host a series of mini language classes taught by modern language faculty from 3-5 p.m. on Friday, May 1, in Tucker Hall.

These thirty- and sixty-minute sessions will focus on central themes and provide useful information for foreign travelers or for those who merely wish on occasion to demonstrate their skills. Taught in an informal and relaxed atmosphere, classes have become an annual favorite for returning alumni.

Professors providing instruction this year will be Ken Ujie (Japanese), Daniel Kramer (German), Mónica Botta and Florinda Ruiz (Spanish), Patricia Hardin (Italian), Susan Dixon (French), Ye Yuan (Chinese) and Cristina Pinto-Bailey (Portuguese). Mónica Botta, assistant professor of Spanish, affirms that “this is a great initiative because foreign language classes offer alumni the unique opportunity to give a living language a try, practice one they’ve already studied or simply explore one aspect of a given culture through a microcosm of a lesson.”

“The TMC and language departments constantly seek to bring the wide world of foreign cultures and languages home to the Washington and Lee campus. We are very happy to have found a means of reaching not only current students, but our alumni as well,” said Dick Kuettner, organizer, director of the Tucker Multimedia Center and a professor in the Romance Languages department.

To learn more about the TMC and its initiatives promoting language teaching and learning with and without technology, please visit http://tmc.wlu.edu .

W&L to Present Sen. John W. Warner with The Washington Award

Washington and Lee University will present former Sen. John W. Warner, a 1949 graduate of the University, with its highest honor – The Washington Award – on Saturday, May 2, at 10:30 a.m. during the annual meeting of the W&L Alumni Association in Lee Chapel.

The Washington Award recognizes distinguished leadership and service to the nation and/or extraordinary acts of philanthropy in support of Washington and Lee and other institutions. The award is a small copy of a marble statue of George Washington done by British sculptor Sir Francis Cantrey for the Massachusetts State House.

“Sen. Warner’s life exemplifies the attributes of honor, integrity and civility that Washington and Lee strives to instill in our students,” said Washington and Lee President Kenneth P. Ruscio, who will present the award to Warner.

Warner began his public service during World War II, when he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at the age of 17. He served on active duty until the summer of 1946 and, following his honorable discharge as a petty officer third class, entered Washington and Lee, his father’s alma mater, on the GI Bill and received the B.S. degree in basic engineering in 1949.

After graduating from W&L, Warner entered law school at the University of Virginia but left to begin a second tour of active military duty, this time as an officer in the Marine Corps, when the Korean War broke out in 1950. He served for two years in Korea before returning to U.Va. to complete his law degree in 1953.

From 1953 to 1956, Warner served as law clerk for the late Chief Judge E. Barrett Prettyman of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney in 1956, and served four years in the trial and appellate divisions before entering private practice in 1960.

In February 1969, Warner was appointed undersecretary of the Navy and, three years later, he succeeded John H. Chafee as secretary of the Navy. He participated in the Law of the Sea talks and negotiated the Incidents at Sea Executive Agreement with the Soviet Union.

Warner was appointed by President Gerald Ford to coordinate the celebration of the bicentennial of the founding of the United States, directing the federal role at events in all 50 states and in 22 foreign countries.

Warner began his five terms in the U.S. Senate in 1978 and is the second-longest serving senator from Virginia in the 218-year history of the Senate. He formerly chaired the Armed Services Committee and served on the Intelligence Committee, on the Environment and Public Works and the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

In August 2007, Warner announced his decision not to seek re-election to a sixth term. In remarks at his announcement, Warner said that the “communities of Charlottesville, Amherst and Lexington are, to me, hallowed grounds. My ancestors on my father’s side go back many generations in Amherst; Lexington is home to Washington and Lee University, where my father graduated in 1903 and [where] I, following Naval service, graduated in 1949; and then to Charlottesville where I entered the Law School.”

Warner served as a member of Washington and Lee’s board of trustees from 1968 to 1980. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University in 2005.

Spring is for Blogging

Welcome yet another blog from W&L’s Spring Term: this one is courtsy of the New York Internship program. When they’re not out making it in the Big Apple, students in the annual internship program are sharing their experiences and thoughts. In only their first few days we’ve learned that Erin Galliher (who’s at Forbes) enjoyed a falafel pita, that Catherine Carlock got to watch a pre-recording of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” and that Michael Morella spent his first day at Ark Media concentrating on Eva Longoria’s life history. We also got a picture of the Wall Street bull courtesy of Cale Grove (see above). So stay tuned and see how the term goes for the New York interns (sounds like a reality show) while you also spend some time with the biology class in Yellowstone Park and the archaeology class digging over the mountain at Monticello.

Wolves, Bison and Pronghorn Antelope, Oh My!

Biology professor Bill Hamilton and his Spring Term class are out in Yellowstone where they are conducting research invasive plant species and “their impacts on soil nitrogen cycling and organic matter decomposition.” Here’s some background on the research that Bill does. When they aren’t out in the field collecting samples or in the lab examining them, they are chronicling their work on a blog where you can already see that they’re definitely not in Lexington any more. Not only have they posted a cool gallery of images, including a wolf waiting to dine on an elk, several bison, a bald eagle and Rocky Mountain bluebirds, but they’ve got some video taken with a Flip MinoHD Camcorder. You’ll want to follow this blog throughout the term. Based on the first few days, odds are good that they’ll have lots of interesting images to see before they finish their work. You’re apt to see a few more photo galleries like this one.

T. Boone Pickens Scheduled to Speak at W&L

Oil billionaire and philanthropist T. Boone Pickens, an outspoken advocate for alternative energy, will speak at Washington and Lee University on Thursday, April 30, at 5 p.m. in Lee Chapel.

Pickens’ speech is sponsored by the Contact Committee, a student organization that brings prominent speakers to the campus each year. A reception will follow the speech in the Great Hall of the Science Center. The public is invited, and admission is free.

Founder and chairman of BP Capital Management, one of the nation’s most successful energy-oriented investment funds, the 80-year-old Pickens has gained the reputation as the “Oracle of Oil” for his accurate predictions of oil and gas prices.

In July 2008, he launched an ambitious, self-funded grass-roots campaign aimed at reducing America’s dependence on imported oil.  He has argued in a national television ad campaign, in personal appearances and on his Web site that the nation’s dependence on foreign oil threats the economy, the environment and national security.

The Pickens Plan, which has more than a million supporters, calls for wind generation facilities to produce 20 percent of the nation’s electricity and for natural gas to fuel vehicles.

In his 2008 book, The First Billion is the Hardest, Pickens details what the country must do to win back its energy independence. He is aggressively pursuing a wide range of other business interests, from water marketing, wind power and ranch development initiatives to Clean Energy, a company he founded. Through Mesa Water, Pickens is the largest private holder of permitted groundwater rights in the United States. Mesa Power is planning the world’s largest wind farm in the Texas Panhandle. Clean Energy, which went public in 2007, is advancing the use of natural gas as a cleaner-burning and more cost-effective transportation fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel.

Pickens earned a degree in geology from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University) in 1951. He has been a generous philanthropist throughout his life, giving away more than $600 million. The T. Boone Pickens Foundation is focused on improving lives through grants supporting educational programs, medical research, athletics and corporate wellness, at-risk youths, the entrepreneurial process and conservation and wildlife initiatives.

The recipient of dozens of major awards, Pickens was the 2006 recipient of the Horatio Alger Award from The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans Inc.  The award epitomizes those who overcome adversity and humble beginnings to achieve success.

Katherine Crowley Wins AMS Congressional Fellowship

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) has announced that Katherine Crowley, assistant professor of mathematics at Washington and Lee University, will be the organization’s Congressional Fellow for 2009-2010.

She will join 29 other congressional fellows, representing the other scientific societies, on Capitol Hill for the next academic year.

According to the AMS, the fellowship is designed to demonstrate the value of science-government interaction, and to bring a technical background and external perspective to the decision-making process in Congress.

Crowley will spend a year working on the staff of a member of congress or on a congressional committee. Her precise assignment will be decided in September when she will attend a week of placement interviews.

“I’m excited about it,” says Crowley. “The reason I applied was because I really want to see up close the process of turning science into policy. It’s one thing to create a perfect, beautiful, theoretically exact solution to something, but it’s quite different for someone to apply it. If there’s too much of a gap between science and law making, the two processes will never be useful to each other. I’d like to help bridge that divide. Or at least see how it gets done.”

Crowley’s participation in the fellowship program may also have benefits for W&L students.

“I’ll be looking to bring back some opportunities for W&L students, although I don’t know what those will be yet. Maybe it will be in the classroom—giving them a better understanding of how math can be used in public policy decision-making. Maybe it will be some type of internship. I’ll be keeping my eyes open.”

The fellowship program includes a year-long seminar series on issues involving science, technology and public policy. All fellowships are administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Another Race for Lacey

At 81, Lacey Putney has just announced that he will run for re-election to the Virginia House of Delegates from Virginia’s 19th District, which includes the city of Bedford and much of Bedford and Botetourt counties. Putney, a member of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1950, is already the Commonwealth’s longest-serving legislative representative, having served in the House of Delegates since 1962. Putney is an Independent, and so far no one is stepping up to challenge him. Little wonder. In 2007, he was opposed by Democrat Lewis Medlin and won 73 percent of the vote. That year he was also named chairman of the influential budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, prompting the Roanoke Times to profile him as Boss of the budget.

W&L Free Service Translates 50 Languages

Who would think that the small town of Lexington, Va., would be able to provide a translation service for 50 different languages? Who would think there would be a demand for it?

Yet such a service does exist and it’s free.

English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Washington and Lee University has provided live translations to the community for the last seven years. “Most of the demand is for Spanish,” says Ellen Mayock, professor of Romance languages, “but we have provided translations in Mandarin Chinese, Farsi, Swedish, French, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Ukranian, Portuguese and Korean and have the capability to offer 50 languages.”

Master Patrolman F.W. Smith, a 27-year veteran of the Lexington Police Department, agrees that it’s mostly Spanish that’s needed. But he recalls an incident where he used the ESOL service when he arrested a Bulgarian man for a DUI. “It was the Fourth of July, and the men in the car were all heavily intoxicated. Where am I going to find someone who speaks Bulgarian? School was out but luckily a W&L student helped me through the whole situation,” says Smith, adding that the student ended up coming to the police station as well as the court hearing.

“When I started back in 1982 we didn’t have an interpreter, and you didn’t need one because the population was not that diverse at the time,” says Smith. “But it is now and it really helps — especially when you make a traffic stop. It’s unnerving when they don’t speak English. I know a little bit of Spanish but it’s hard to get your point across.”

W&L students and Mayock cover approximately half of the 50 languages offered, and the others are handled by volunteers from both the W&L and Lexington communities. Mayock would like to add to that list. “I’d like to tap into the retired community more,” she says. “There are a lot of people here with great education, a desire to help and they speak plural languages.”

“We have a large Hispanic population in this area” says Mayock, pointing out that the latest language map indicates that there are now 1,100 Spanish-speakers in the Rockbridge County area. In the 2000 census, nearly eight per cent of respondents in Lexington spoke a language other than English in their homes. Almost five percent spoke English less than ‘very well’.”

ESOL began two years after that census, and the area has seen an increase of more than 200 percent in Spanish-speaking people since then. “That means our service is much more in demand,” says Mayock. “If there’s a need in the community, we want to address it, and we’ll do it as professionally as possible.”

More than 300 Individuals Served

ESOL has provided translations to more than 300 people so far and for a variety of situations. Hospitals, schools and pharmacies have all used the service. The police will sometimes call the service at 3 or 4 a.m. looking for help. But the District Court is one of the most frequent users.

Guadalupe Maria Suarez, a W&L senior from Buenos Aires, Argentina, has been chairman of the ESOL hotline since she was a sophomore. She recounts one particular case when she went to court.

“There was the judge, me and four men from Guatamala,” she says. “They didn’t speak a word of English. I would listen to the judge, translate for these guys and then translate back to the judge. They had gotten a speeding ticket, and they were angry about it. They believed they had been stopped only because the police could tell from their license plates that they were Hispanic. With some of the language they used, I couldn’t translate everything they said, but I did my best to explain how they felt.”

Another time, she was called to the hospital. “This guy fell from the staircase and broke both his wrists. It was pretty bad. He didn’t speak a word of English, and he could barely say “hi” and “bye.” I felt bad because I had to tell him “Both your wrists are broken.” I went with him to the pharmacy to get his medicine. I feel so bad for these people. It reminds me of me when I was younger and English was a second language for me.”

But it’s not all police and medical cases.

Hansen Babington, another W&L senior, recalls working with a Bolivian man. “I helped him with finding a job, and we went to about eight or 10 restaurants in the Buena Vista and Lexington area. I worked as a translator between him and the cooking staff. I tried to communicate his aims for employment and what he was capable of doing. He was successful in getting a job but he ended up having to move to Washington after about two weeks.”

Mayock recalls one particularly interesting case. “We had a Spanish-speaking couple going through pre-marriage counseling at the Catholic Church. One of our students went to several different meetings between the priest and the couple to do the live interpretation back and forth. The couple has since married, and now they and their two children are taking English classes with us, which is another service we provide.”

A Learning Experience

Besides helping the local community, Mayock and the W&L students learn a lot themselves.

“The students want to use their Spanish every day in real situations,” says Mayock. “ESOL was student-driven from the start. They came to faculty members in the Spanish department and said, “We have this idea, what do you think?”

“Selfishly, for me, it’s a great way to get to know some wonderful students outside the classroom. Then again, we’ve all learned how to say the Miranda warning in Spanish and words like arraignment. We’ve even produced a glossary of terms that students can refer to and take with them on appointments.”

Mayock also points out that they’ve improved their knowledge of the street jargon used by drug dealers. “It comes in useful when attending an attempted drug bust. Plus, it’s linguistically fascinating,” she says.

Any organization using the ESOL services must sign a waiver. It states that ESOL is a volunteer organization of amateurs coming out of a university, that it is a free service, and that translators will facilitate communication and remain impartial.

“One of the things that sometimes happens in tense situations,” says Mayock, “is that the person you are sitting with and translating for can begin to see you as an ally through language. I have a very soft heart and tend to want to feel that alliance as well. I understand. There’s something completely reassuring about having a bi-lingual person in the room who can make sure that you are understood.

“But to be totally faithful to the whole situation you need to represent exactly what’s being said and nothing more. These are the lessons that we are all learning when doing these live interpretations—that we should just be invisible and let the language speak.

“One result of the ESOL service,” says Mayock, “is that it creates an ongoing link with the Spanish-speaking person you are helping. They know they can call upon you again, and very often they start coming to our English classes.”

• Call (540) 460-6606 to reach the ESOL hotline. Or e-mail esol@wlu.edu to set up an appointment for a live translation.

• ESOL offers free English classes at the Rockbridge Regional Library every Thursday night at 8 p.m. and expects to continue this service throughout the summer.
• ESOL also offers three different levels of free Spanish classes each week on the W&L campus. One-on-one tutoring arrangements can also be made.

• Further information on ESOL services can be found on their Web site http://esol.wlu.edu/

Rave Reviews for John Pipkin's Debut Novel

“Gripping and profound.” “Witty, bawdy, philosophical, touching, and humorous.” “Audacious, wondrous.” And those are just a sampling of the adjectives being used to describe Woodsburner, the debut novel of Washington and Lee alumnus John Pipkin of the Class of 1989.  Scheduled to be released on April 28, Woodsburner covers a single day in the life of Henry David Thoreau. According to the Washington Post’s review, “he ingenious nature of this structure grows clearer with each haunting chapter.” The Kirkus Review even uses the “p” word, writing: “A superb historical fiction as well as a complex and provocative novel of ideas—Pulitzer Prize material.” There’s good news for those of you who will be returning to Lexington for the 2009 Alumni Weekend — John will be reading from and signing Woodsburner on Saturday, May 2, from noon to 2 p.m. in Elrod Commons. It’s a sneak preview in some ways since it will be John’s first event since the book is officially available and precedes the official book launch back in his home town of Austin on May 7. You can read some additional reviews of the novel here.